Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Choosing Races

In my post on my 2015 training, I mentioned that I'd mapped out which races I'd be running in 2015. Some of these "races" are events that I'll be pacing, so I won't be doing any actual "racing" at them. I've got one or two races planned I haven't done before, but most of my races are repeats.

Last year I got to race a couple of new races, the Modesto Half Marathon and the Chicago Marathon. Running new races is fun--it's a change of scenery, you get a shirt from an event you haven't done before, and sometimes you get to travel somewhere you haven't been before.

Although running new races can be fun, there are also several advantages to running a race you've already done. First of all, if you're looking for a new personal best, you know how fast a race is going to be. Secondly, if you've run the same race numerous times, you can compare your past performances to your current fitness. Finally, if you've run a race several times, you know the course and can have a better race strategy.

My first official race this year will be the MDRA 7 mile. This will be the third time I've run the race. It's hilly, and the weather can vary quite a bit from year-to-year. Generally the temperatures are pretty cool, which makes for good racing conditions (if it's not too cold).

I'm excited to see how this race goes after my winter of training. If I keep on my current trajectory, this winter will be the most mileage I've run since college. Lately I've been averaging over 50 miles a week, and I've been staying injury-free. We'll see how that training pays off come the end of March.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Winter: We're Not Messing Around

If you've read this blog before, you know I'm all about running in the winter. If you want to run in the Minnesota winter, you can't mess around. It's cold, it's slippery, and it's dark. Although this winter has been comparatively mild, it's still takes some determination to get outside and brave the elements.

I've already written several posts on what you can do to have a successful winter running season (read a few of them here, here, and here), but you may be asking yourself, "why don't I just hang up my running shoes for a few months and run again in the spring when I don't look like I've lost my mind?"

I also sometimes wonder if I've lost my mind. The other day I was out running before work around 6 AM. It was dark, the windchill was below zero, and I really needed to pay attention to the twenty feet ahead of me illuminated by my head lamp. Looking for slick spots and lighting the path ahead is important to avoid a winter-style wipe out (they're far more painful, albeit drier, than a surfing wipe out).

As I watched my breath condense in front of me, somewhat obscuring my view as my headlamp cut through its fog, I had to wonder how sane this activity really was. My toes, fingertips, and face were freezing. Most people were still in bed, and even those working out probably had the sense to be in a well-lit gym.

While my less-than-sane feeling persisted, about three miles into my eight mile run I passed another runner braving the cold and darkness. Seeing another brave soul, dressed in bright, reflective clothing, helped me feel a little less insane, though I admit there must be something not quite right about me when I'm up a couple hours before the sun and running outside in a temperature where flesh can freeze in less than an hour.

So is it worth it to brave the sub-zero temperatures, the darkness, and the slippery sidewalks? I think so, but below is a list of pros and cons, so you can decide if running outside in the winter is worth the trouble.

Sweet icicles, or beardsicles as I like to call them, on my beard
There's rarely a need to carry water, even on long runs
Running when it's cold is generally more comfortable than when it's really hot
More pockets for keys, ID, and snacks in running jackets

More difficult to run during daylight hours
Often slippery running surfaces
More clothing required, and wrong clothing choices  mean being too hot, or freezing
Freezing your nose, fingers, or worse

There it is--run outside in the winter, or don't. Personally, I think it's totally worth it. Running inside on a treadmill or around a track isn't the worse thing in the world, but I'd rather brave the cold and darkness most days than be stuck inside under the oppressive fluorescent lighting of the gym.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2015 Training

If you've followed this blog before, you know I'm a huge nerd, and a couple of things I enjoy doing are reading books about running and writing training plans. After a somewhat disappointing 2014 running season, I've mapped out my 2015 season. I've already set some big goals, and this year I'm going to try hard to make it happen.

It's one thing to set goals, it's another things to be dedicated enough and well-planned enough to make them happen. My mom was fond of saying, "Fail to plan, plan to fail." So, in my mother's spirit, and with all my running nerdiness, I've planned out my training from now until the Whistlestop Marathon in October.

The first race I'm planning on is a 7 mile race at the end of March. My time at that race will let me know how much work I have ahead of me before my next race--probably a 5k in May. In between I'll also be pacing a couple of marathons and a few half marathons.

I used "Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon" by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald to set up my training plan for the 5k. After spending the past six weeks doing mostly easy runs, this was my first week officially on the training plan. I've had good success using a Hudson plan for two of my marathons, so we'll see how the 5k plan goes.

Following the 5k, I'll take about a week off before jumping into a marathon training plan. This time I'm going to try something different and try out training using "The Hansons Marathon Method" by Luke Humphrey and Keith Hanson. The advanced training plan in the book calls for fewer miles than the training plan from "Run Faster from the 5k to the Marathon" that I used for my PR marathon back in 2012, and the elite plan in the book had a quite a bit more miles than I can handle or have time for.

Fortunately, the book also gave advice on how to add mileage to the advanced program. Using that advice and looking at the author's training log for the 15 weeks before his PR marathon, I put together a training plan for Whistlestop.

So far my training has been going pretty well. In my six weeks leading up to the Hudson training plan, I've averaged over 50 miles a week, and made it 225 miles in January--the most I've ran in a month since October of 2013.

Now I'm just hoping to stay healthy and be able to keep increasing my miles.

Happy Running!